Thumbs Up for Penn Tower

East, East Coast
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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15 Penn Plaza, which would become the second tallest tower in Midtown, has met with limited political opposition.

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his approval to 15 Penn Plaza, a nearly 1,200-square-foot tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and proposed for a site across from Penn Station. The approval was conditional, as usually happens when a borough president puts the stamp on a land-use project, but what was surprising, perhaps, is that the size or scale of the building were not addressed. As we reported last month, the proposed project is 42.5 percent larger than current zoning allows, one of the chief reasons the local community board opposed the building 36-1, deeming the project too big. Such outsizing is usually a gripe for borough presidents, as well, but that was not the case here, as Stringer took issue with impacts on the open space, transportation, construction, and sidewalks, all of which are impacted by the projects size, though that itself was never an issue. This one, it appears, is all about mitigation and not reduction. That said, this is Midtown—a common refrain in support of the pre-shrunken MoMA tower, to which Stringer did object more strenuously—so maybe this fits after all.

Academy Accolades

East
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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Opportunity Inspiration Achievement

Last night was the American Academy of Arts and Letters‘ annual ceremonial. The venerable organization inducted new members, meted out awards, and exhibited newly acquired artwork. Among the honorees were many familiar names from the architecture world. Henry Cobb, a long-standing member of the Academy, presented the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture to Michael van Valkenburgh—only the second time in history that the prestigious prize has been given to a landscape architect (Dan Kiley was the other, in 1995). The Academy also inducted Thom Mayne of Morphosis into its membership, citing the convention-defying nature of the controversial architect’s work as reason for his worthiness. Read More

New Age Modern

West
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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View from 450 Architects' Sausalito Residence

The houses showcased in this year’s AIA SF Home Tours in Marin County have a common theme in their responsive attitude to the landscape; permeable skins allowing a transparent transition between interior and exterior, embedding into their sites, and visually enlarging the volume of their comparatively modest footprints on steeply situated hillside lots. Each of the homes have unassuming public facades, displaying a circumspect propriety among its neighbors. The architecture of these residences say as much about their setting as the spaces inside. Read More

Recovering Architects

National
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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We're looking for more architectural green shoots.

Yesterday, we reported on the continued improvement of the AIA Billings Index, which has shown its best performance in two years. While things have not totally recovered yet, there is more to this story than just number. We’ve been hearing stories, too, of those so-called green shoots popping up here and there. Take for example a recent tweet by Gensler heralding the 63 spots that the firm is trying to fill across the globe. The simple missive—”Sign of the times: we’re hiring for 63 positions!”—ricocheted around Twitter, a sign of hope and promise among those wired architects. Clearly, this is the kind of good news people are looking for, so we want to hear more. Please leave your stories in the comment section below or send them to editor[at]archpaper.com. We’ll try and highlight them in a few days.

You Can Leave The Light On

West
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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What’s that on the roof of Hollywood’s Standard Hotel? Is it a….giant light bulb? Well, yes. Artist Piero Golia has installed a permanent, orb-shaped light (clad in acryclic, lit by eight fluorescent tubes, and sitting on a large steel spindle and crown) on the roof, called Luminous Sphere, that is quite visible from traffic below. It looks a little bit like a glowing golf ball on a steel tee. In a particularly quirky (and egotistical?) move, the light will go on when Golia is in town and off when he is out of town (it can be controlled via the internet). The project was organized  by Culver City’s LA><ART and executed by Zellnerplus architects, Buro Happold engineers, and Benchmark Scenery fabricators. LA><ART, which focuses on site-specific work while also maintaining its own gallery, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Sphere launches its LA Public Domain (L.A.P.D, get it?) program (also sponsored by local  group For Your Art) , promoting artistic interventions in experimental contexts. Now is that lightbulb a halogen?

Some-Glass House for Sale

East, East Coast
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
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Philip Johnson's first commission work, the Booth House in Bedford, New York. (Courtesy philipjohnsonsfirsthouse.com)

Philip Johnson’s first commissioned work, a house for the Booth family built in 1946, can now be yours for the forgiving price of $2 million. It’s not exactly Johnson’s first building ever—that distinction goes to his Harvard thesis project, completed two years prior—nor is it exactly his best—according to one first hand report, it’s basically a Glass House with cinder block walls. Still, that’s about par in price for the area according to Coldwell Banker, and how many other of those homes can boast such history? Just so long as it’s not bought for the land and torn down like so many other modernist homes north of the city that have been lost in recent years.

Routemaster 2.0

East
Monday, May 17, 2010
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The City of London unveiled a new version of its iconic red doubledecker bus today, replacing the Routemasters everyone knows and loves. Which was a little surprising, as we thought Transit London had already selected the ever-so-British team of Norman Foster and Aston Martin 17 months ago. But apparently that was just an ideas competition while this, as the video above shows, is the real deal. Set to hit the road by 2012—just in time for the Olympics, no less—the new buses are the work of Thomas Heatherwick and Wrightbus. In addition to being super sleek, the new buses are super sustainable hybrids. Get on board after the jump. Read More

Easy Being Green

East
Monday, May 17, 2010
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The R-House (left) by ARO/Della Valle Bernheimer and the TED by Onion Flats, under construction in Syracuse, are prime examples of affordable, practical green design. (David Lassman / The Post-Standard)

The Syracuse School of Architecture launched the Ground Up housing competition with the express purpose of challenging the notion that green building had to be expensive. Selecting three homes for under $150,000 designed by Cook+Fox, ARO/Della Valle Bernheimer, and Onion Flats, the school and local non-profit Home HeadQuarters sought to investigate the limits of sustainable design while reviving Syracuse’s rundown Near West Side. The project is nearing completion as detailed in a series of blog posts from the Post Standard (to which we were directed by our friends at ArchNewsNow). It’s a thorough, thoughtful account of three pathbreaking homes and well worth checking out both as a fine example of bricks-and-mortar blogging and deft design.

Not-So-Great News For Great Park

West
Monday, May 17, 2010
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Is the air coming out of the big orange balloon? Orange County’s Great Park, which is rising on the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine, has since its inception in 2002 been the last great hope for OC residents hoping for a great rural retreat (landscape architects like Ken Smith and Mia Lehrer are among those working on it). But the housing market has now officially gotten in the way, delaying the needed $1.4 billion in construction funding by years. According to The Orange County Register, the 1,347-acre park will have only $17 million in unallocated funds by next summer, and building money is still years away. “I don’t know where the idea materialized out there that somehow we would have the great metropolitan park developed full scale within a matter of a few years,” said Great Park Chairman Larry Agran. “Nobody ever promised that, and certainly I believe we have been quite clear that you build out a park of this magnitude in typically a 15- or 20-year process.”

Last Stand for Chiofaro?

East
Friday, May 14, 2010
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Last Monday, we published a story on Boston finalizing its plans for the future development of the Greenway. In it, we made small mention of developer Don Chiofaro and his Boston Arch project. This was for a few reasons. First, we wanted to focus on the Greenway study as a whole, and its dozens of development sites, and not just one of them. Second, Chiofaro, as the video above shows, is a story unto himself. Or many stories. Most, in fact, as he has turned the study into a referendum on his project and not one about the future of Boston’s newest, if still slightly bedraggled park. That said, allow us to make up for our previous paucity with a lengthy look at where Chiofaro’s project stands, or, uh, doesn’t. Read More

New Practices on the Block

East
Friday, May 14, 2010
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And the New Practices New York winners are...

The New Practices New York juried portfolio competition took place on Wednesday. This biennial competition, sponsored by the AIA New York chapter and now in its third iteration, has quickly become one of New York City’s most important launching pads for architects who have been in practice for less than five years. The winners are featured in an exhibition at the Center for Architecture, which usually travels to the national AIA convention and other architectural societies (this year’s winners will be featured in Sao Paulo, Brazil) plus a one-year free membership in the AIA and visibility as a firm on the rise in this highly competitive city. This year’s jury included Toshiko Mori as lead juror, Joe MacDonald (a New Practices winner in 2008), Guy Nordenson, Galia Solomonoff, and yours truly. After reviewing nearly 70 portfolios Read More

Inching Toward ULURP Reform

East, East Coast
Thursday, May 13, 2010
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The Tweed Courthouse, where the Charter Commission held its meeting Monday to set up expert panels, including one for land-use reform.

On Monday, the Charter Revision Commission held its latest meeting, where its members called for a series of five panels to better inform their decision on what, if any, issues to put on the ballot this fall—or next, more on that in a moment. One of the five panels that was called for was on land-use reform, the best indication yet that the commission may well perform the major overhauls the city’s developers and planners have been calling for, as we noted in a recent issue. The commissioned announced today that the land-use panel will be held June 24, at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library, and in addition to experts, public input will also be taken. So if this is an issue you care deeply about—be honest, who doesn’t love ULURP?—then we’ll see you there. As for this fall or next, the biggest debate remains not what but when the commission will conclude its work, as some commissioners and members of the public insist it is moving too quickly to fully engage all the necessary issues.

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